Over half of charities maintained or increased fundraising income in 2023

More than half (55%) of charities maintained or increased their fundraising income in 2023 despite the challenging economic backdrop, according to new research from Enthuse, the donations, fundraising and event registration platform. 

The Charity Pulse report surveyed leaders at over 200 UK charities to find out how their organisations fared in 2023, reasons for optimism and potential challenges in 2024, as well as insight into how good causes are embracing technology. 

A brighter picture

The cost of living crisis has cast a long shadow over the public’s disposable income but the overall picture for the sector is surprisingly bright, with charities showing great resilience. When looking at 2023 charity income by size, small and large charities fared best with 58% stating their income had either stayed the same or grown. The report shows medium sized charities were the most hard pressed, but even then more than half (52%) maintained or grew income. 

One of the reasons behind this is down to the trust that the public has in good causes. Nearly two thirds of charities (63%) believe people have a high level of trust in their cause (nine out of ten or higher). In fact, 40% believe there is complete trust in their charity, scoring it ten out of ten. 

However, there are challenges to this robust level of trust. As the country moves towards a general election, it is questionable as to what extent charities get involved in politics. Two thirds (66%) of charities surveyed say that supporters expect them to steer clear of political discussions. However, this is balanced by 58% saying they are increasingly having to stand up for what are sometimes termed ‘minority groups’. One in six said their charity had to defend its actions in 2023, but only 6% of those saw a drop in income as a result. There is a fine balance for charities to strike here, particularly as Enthuse’s Donor Pulse series has shown over the last six months that the public is split equally on whether charities should support or avoid political issues. 

Cautious optimism

Looking ahead to fundraising streams in 2024, the area the sector feels most confident about is fundraising events and activities of all sizes, with 53% expecting this to grow. The importance of mass physical events within this is evident with 70% of charities planning to get involved in either premium events like the TCS London Marathon and AJ Bell Great North Run, or organising their own mass events. 

Charities of all sizes are cautiously optimistic about 2024, with 44% stating they feel very or fairly optimistic about fundraising in the year ahead, and a further 23% feeling neutral about the next 12 months. The reasons behind this optimism include 63% of charities thinking there will be more opportunities to make use of digital channels; followed by 53% saying younger generations are more positive about backing charities; as well as supporters being more focused on fitness and taking part in physical challenges (49%). Big names events such as the TCS London Marathon and AJ Bell Great North Run prioritising accessibility and inclusion is also seen as a reason to be positive (46%). 

On the other side of the coin, the cost of living is seen as the biggest obstacle to success, with concerns that supporters have less to donate. Half (52%) said this was a significant challenge for charities this year. This was followed by fundraisers being reluctant to ask for donations in the current financial climate (36%) and donor fatigue (29%). 

The Charity Pulse report also looks at the most important methods charities can utilise to help event participants raise money. Coming out on top was providing information on how the donations will be used, with more than half (59%) of respondents saying this was very important. Other helpful tools to help maximise fundraising included: seeing the total raised on the official event website (45%), integrated event and fundraising page creation (40%), taking part in a big name event, such as The TCS London Marathon or AJ Bell Great North Run (37%) and using the official event apps to secure more donations on the day (31%). 

Commenting on the research, Chester Mojay-Sinclare, Enthuse Founder and CEO, said: 

“Charities have been stretched over the past few years. Society has moved from the uncertainty of the pandemic straight into a cost of living crisis. This has seen the demand for charitable services rise. The sector has handled this admirably and that hard work hasn’t gone unnoticed by the public.” 

“It’s encouraging to see that more than half of charities saw their income stay the same or increase. It’s testament to the resourceful nature of the sector that charities find a way to continue to deliver results, even against a difficult financial backdrop. But what really stands out to me is a great opportunity to drive income. Fundraising events and activities are seen as the highest growth opportunity in 2024. At a time when many have less disposable income, providing a memorable experience is increasingly important, and taking on a big physical challenge can inspire people to give.”

Tech tools of the trade

While there has been considerable hype around the use of AI, just 5% of charities say they are currently using this to personalise donor journeys, with a further 9% trialling it. Growth has come instead in areas away from the spotlight like QR codes, which is up 11 percentage points since last year. This straightforward technology made a comeback during the pandemic and is becoming a staple for linking to fundraising or event registration pages. 

Charities are making the most of social media, with the use of TikTok on the rise. 29% of charities say they are already using it and a further 16% say they are trialling it. Podcasts are also becoming a popular channel with a quarter (24%) using them, and a further 21% trialling them. And one in seven (14%) charity leaders say they’re using mobile apps as part of their work.

Technology does bring worries for the sector though, with 58% of charities saying they are concerned about how third parties collect and use supporter data. Other concerns included developing skills to run digital campaigns (63%) and developing social media skills (63%). 

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